The race is on. Four candidates running to fill Chris Norby’s seat representing the fourth district on the Orange County Board of Supervisors participated in a public forum Monday evening at the Fullerton Library. Norby is leaving to replace Mike Duvall in the Assembly.
The participants included Tom Daly, the Orange County Clerk-Recorder; Shawn Nelson, a councilman from Fullerton; Rose Espinoza, a councilwoman from La Habra; and Richard Faher, a businessman from Placentia. Two other candidates, Anaheim Councilmembers Harry Sidhu and Lorri Galloway, did not attend.
The forum was moderated by Jennifer Muir of the Orange County Register and organized by Neighbors United for Fullerton (NUFF). At the official starting time of 6:45 p.m., there were about 25 people in the audience, but they continued to arrive. By 7:30 there were close to 100 people. I’m only beginning to familiarize myself with local personalities, but I recognized Pam Keller, Fullerton’s mayor pro tem; and Jim Pugliese of Pacific Coast Homes (proposed developers of West Coyote Hills) in the audience.
Nelson and Daly looked good. Espinoza and Faher not so much.
Faher’s opening remarks consisted of an inexplicable “history” of public policy moves that have led to a current crisis in unfunded pension liabilities. Although the crisis is real, Faher’s history was unenlightening. His propensity for reading often-confusing prepared statements packed with facts and figures set the tone for his future contributions. But I give him points for being the least political of all the participants. When asked what he’d do about the issue of funding the Harbor Patrol out of the county’s parks budget (a practice all candidates opposed), he alone said there was little he could do — the only way the matter would be resolved is for it to become an issue in the upcoming campaign for sheriff.
“We’ve been talking about the Harbor Patrol thing for a lot of years and nothing’s changed and I don’t think anything’s going to change,” he said.
Espinoza was the only woman on the panel. Her interest in health care and quality of life issues and her concern for the Latino community and for low-income residents were clear. But she didn’t seem to have a grasp of many of the questions raised. More than once I had the impression that she was basing her answer to a question on the answers provided by panel members who preceded her. She was fond of saying that the proposal in question, whatever it might be, was probably a good idea, but not practical in the current fiscal climate — a one-size-fits-all response that’s unconvincing when it’s overplayed.
When asked for her opinion on a transit project (the CenterLine proposal), she first repeated Faher’s contention that it would be too slow (which argument Faher had just attributed to Nelson), then went on: “It might be a good idea for central Orange County, but it’s not money well-spent at this time.”
Nelson then opened his response with: “It’s a bad idea for central Orange County. … Until Metrolink is an efficient operation as is, we have no business building tracks.”
Nelson seemed to have a good grasp of the issues and was able to present his views clearly and convincingly. What distinguished him, in my mind, was an emphasis on technical solutions intended to increase efficiency. When asked how the county could save money, he suggested e-filing of public documents. (That turned out to be a bit of a gaffe since he was sitting next to Daly, who said Orange County was the first in the nation to institute e-filing some time ago.) Nelson’s suggested means of dealing with the state’s early release of prisoners was that communications technology should be used to keep local law enforcement informed. He doesn’t think legal requirements for lobbyists to disclose their activities is necessary; he’ll post all his contacts with lobbyists on his website.
Daly also presented himself well, and seemed to have a better grasp of county operations than any of the other panel members. When asked how the county could save money, he said the county owns land, like the former El Toro marine base, that is underutilized. All candidates agreed that money that is now used to fund the Harbor Patrol should be used for more parks in North Orange County (NOC), but Daly said there hadn’t been a new county park in NOC since the 1970’s. When asked about environmental issues, Faher gave a non-answer, Espinoza fumbled, Nelson gave a good answer (recycling) drawing on his experience in the city council, but Daly named ways in which the county is responsible for environmental issues, including the topical question of flood control.
(All photos by Cindy Cotter)